Spelt is grain that is the current rage in some baking circles. That mystifies me.This bronze age cousin of wheat has peculiar profiles that deem it healthy but is very difficult to handle. First, it has a weak gluten structure and doesn’t rise into a lofty and airy loaves unless you’re an amazing baker. Next it needs less water; say about 10-to 15 percent less than a normal wheat bread. Oh, yeah, don’t over knead! Do I need to say that again with another exclamation point? Sorry, but over kneading kills it. Truth is, you need to handle it particularly gently. Three to four minutes is sufficient to get the flour mixed to use. For directions, let me suggest Dan Lepard’s method of short 10 second kneads with some two folds, perhaps even Jim Lahey’s no knead. Judge for yourself, but I stray away from using a mixer because of the danger of high speeds.
I first started using spelt flour with my sister at her home in Switzerland, a place where watches, chocolate and spelt are king. Why? Well, because spelt is less disease prone and utilizes less fertilizer, as well it is easier to digest for people who suffer with wheat allergies.When baking at her house I’d usually turn out bread that resembled a clay object, flat and unappealing. That said, it’s mysteriously sweet nutty taste made up for the aesthetic flaws. It’s safe to say the Swiss are on to something.
Last year on vacation, one of the wonderful things I did on my various "bread adventures" was visit the mill at Maisprach a 6th generation family owned business. The bakers at Australian site Sourdough have been baking lots of loaves. One especially nice loaf was a recent entry from my friend Dom, who mixed the Dan Lepard and Jim Lahey techniques. Wise strategy. Personally, when I tried, my timing was off, and the loaf was slightly past its peak. Still, the result was a nice tasting loaf, somewhat of uneven shape, but still totally satisfying. Soooo… I won’t give up on this spelt. Instead I will explore trying some mixed flourspelt breads like those I have seen on some of the German bread forums. Time to get out my translator!